A couple of days before, the Callair was in the process of having it’s annual inspection done. Keith and I pulled the panels, whipped out the tools, flashlights and grease gun and went to work on an airplane that had flown a grand total of maybe 4 hours since the last inspection. We agreed that more airplanes get worn out by unscrewing things and screwing them back on than by actual use – especially antique airplanes – but we soldiered on.
20 inspection covers per wing! The Sitka Spruce wood spars are fully uncovered and Keith checks the all-important paperwork for particular points of interest.
The Continental C-90-8 engine is the original engine that was installed in the airplane when it was built in 1952. This is rare enough these days, but it has recently been rebuilt to like-new specifications and purrs like a kitten.
The day before (later in the afternoon of the day before) the weather guessers finally came to the shared conclusion that Monday would be The Day and Tuesday would be OK if I got stuck somewhere south of Georgia, so the decision was cast in Jell-o to fly South on Monday. That led to some planning and general aforethought on topics as ranging as “what to take”, “how to get back for The Drive South with Ma and the Poodles”, and “can you take this or that with you? (answer: no)” … There was also the small matter of service for the airplane – oil for the engine, fuel for the engine (it’s always a lot about the engine), and so on. I thought I might make it off the ground by 10. It turned out to be 10:30, but in any case I privately thought anything after 9:30 meant a possible overnight stop, which happened. Therefore, the title “Overnight to Warmer Climes”.
I’m very happy – overjoyed, almost – that the airplane performed flawlessly. My only hitch came when I started the engine for the first time on that chilly morning in the mountains. My airplane does not have a self-commencer, also known as an electric starter … it is started by charming the genie who makes the engine run and pulling the propeller through by hand, also known as an “Armstrong” starter. It really helps to have someone either provide the strong arm while the pilot sits all comfy inside holding the brakes or, more often, stand in front of the tail to keep the airplane from bounding across hill and dale once the pilot coaxes the motor to life. Neither of those options were available, so I resorted to tying the tail down for the start. I picked a place where the ground rises a little, tied the tail to a corner post of the hangar, and old sparky fired right up. Once running smoothly and idled back to lope along in a kind of chug-chug rhythm, I untied the tail and climbed in, which is another topic altogether as I’m not exactly lithe and the cockpit is not exactly accessible to those who have enjoyed more than adequate nourishment.
Heart rate back to normal, the rest of the day could not have been more pleasant, except maybe that rear window which has an annoying habit of sliding forward in flight, opening a path for very chilly air to enter and blow right on the back of my neck.
The route I flew was the one I had picked weeks before: Hendersonville to Thomson GA to Hazelhurst GA to Lake City FL and then to Zellwood, the Callair’s new home. The stops were planned with 1.5 hour flights in between so the newly-overhauled engine and I could get to know each other. I could mention that the airplane’s fuel tank only holds 15 gallons of gas, allowing about 2.5 hours of flying until excessive air displaces the fuel in the tank, leading to fuel starvation, stopped prop and certain doom (or something like that). Happily, the engine’s fuel consumption averaged a little under 5 gallons per hour, which is pretty good for a 90 horsepower engine and better than I had planned. I like being fat on fuel.
Lake City departure by 4pm was the watchword for the day. I left there a little after 4:30, having decided to overnight at Ocala, a place with which I am very familiar. A few minutes spent with old friends, a good dinner and a comfy bed were welcome after a full day. The next morning after an equally good breakfast and some more chit chat at the airport the engine slaked its thirst with fresh fuel and a perfectly smooth half hour of flying ensued. I even made a passable landing at the new digs – Bob White Field at Zellwood, home of some marvelous wizards of steel tube, dope and fabric, antique airplanes (and antique pilots). The runway is grass (as God intended) and smooth as a table top, thanks to the efforts of owner, Pete Counsell. There will be lots of pictures, eventually, and – best of all - adventure.
The dry statistics: 6.1 hours flying time, 27.9 gallons of avgas, 4 stops (one overnight), for a total enroute time without the overnight of 7.5 hours. Slightly better than the 10.5 hours it takes to drive but I can’t take the entourage in the airplane.
What goes around, comes around … an old pic from 1961 complete with a smartass cadet displaying a blacked-out version of what would, a few years later in the Hanoi Hilton, become known as the “Hawaiian Good Luck Sign”, and the logo for the progenitor of the Callair S1A, the Interstate Cadet. The airplane is far more virtuous.